On 1/18/11 at 2:29 p.m. J writes:
It’s not like I really want to stick my finger in the eyes of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, but eating at the Reading Terminal Market is an exercise in disappointment.
I want to like it. I mean it is, after all, the READING TERMINAL MARKET!!! A holy place of eating in a city famous for being fat because, well, we know how to eat and, for the most part, how to cook.
But I’ve eaten at the Reading Terminal Market four times now, and each time I’ve said, “That’s it, I’m never going back!” and yet I keep going back like a dog to his own vomit or a battered spouse because, well, I keep thinking this will be the time. But it never is.
Today I had lunch at the Cajun place, the name of which I cannot recall. I love Cajun food. Of all the places I have visited in my business travels, the place I have loved the most is New Orleans. Even the Food Court at the mall by the Convention Center in New Orleans is an exercise in deliciousness. When Katrina hit, and I did my requisite feeling bad for the people trapped in flooded houses and hating President Bush for his non-response, my first real cognitive thought was, “I wonder what happened to Mulate’s. They had awesome Po Boys.” Call me insensitive, but I really didn’t know anyone from the Ninth Ward; I did know Mulate’s sandwiches.
Where was I? Oh yes, Philadelphia.
Reading Terminal Market can be overwhelming in its choices, but a couple of days ago I walked by the Cajun place and they offered me a free sample of their chicken and sausage gumbo. The cup was a typical sample size, but somehow the lovely young lady filling my sample cup managed to get both a piece of chicken and a piece of sausage in it, and it was delicious. I decided right then and there that I would head back someday and get lunch.
Today in Philadelphia it’s cold and miserable. I had packed a bologna sandwich with some fruit, chips and cookies, but the weather really called for hot soup, and my preference is hot spicy soup, and gumbo fits that bill. So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style. I have no real evidence of this but I suspect that people who have first dates at Reading Terminal Market don’t make it to second dates.
“So where do you want to eat, dear?”
“Oh I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”
“How about here.”
“Do you want to eat there?”
“I don’t know, do you?”
“How about here?”
“Do you like that food?”
And assuming the guy hasn’t gone all Kensington Strangler on his date by this point, the couple likely winds up eating at Chili’s which, whatever its demerits, is at least predictable.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the gumbo.
So I order the chicken and sausage gumbo, and here’s the part they don’t tell you when they sample—IT’S SERVED OVER RICE!!!!!! The sample was not served over rice; the sample came in a small free cup. Basically, the gumbo at the Cajun place is an exercise in selling rice for $7 because by the time the little twit filled my bowl with heaping spoonfuls of rice there wasn’t much room for the gumbo, and despite my best efforts the rice managed to absorb most of the gumbo sauce so I was left eating a flavorless bowl of rice with a couple of pieces of sausage.
And the whole exercise came to $9.40 because I wanted something to drink (next time I’m bringing my own bottled water) and Philadelphia sales tax is 8 percent.
From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.
I remind him what he ripped off from me and his love of the free sample guy in The Gallery:
“So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style.”
“From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.”
…and retarded people.
Hey man, if we’re going to share a brain I’m going to use your material sometimes.
My little retarded friend was at Chic Fil A today, but he was back wiping the counter, which is a degrading waste of his time because he’s actually really good at passing out free chicken, not that it’s hard, but you know, when someone does something right you want to acknowledge it in a world where all we do is criticize people, so what I’m saying is, HERE’S TO YOU RETARDED YOUNG MAN AT CHIC FIL A! THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXCELLENCE!!
You know what else I learned about free samples today in the Gallery?
First, the samples at Charley’s Cheese steaks are way better than the actual sandwiches you pay for. Even controlling for the fact that the samples are free, they never get the sandwiches right. But if you hit the free sample lady at just the right time it’s the perfect taste.
Second, if you’re getting sick of Bourbon Chicken, walk by one of the stands and wait for them to ask if you want a free sample. You can ask for whatever you want. Today I asked to sample their General Tso’s chicken knowing full well what it tastes like. I suppose when you have an interaction with the person behind the counter, as opposed to a sad, silent type standing in the crossway with a piece of chicken on a toothpick, you might feel more of a sense to buy lunch there. I didn’t. I took my sample and walked away, but a person with social graces might.
I remind him:
I’m pretty sure you already did several posts about free samples in the Gallery…specifically Charley’s Cheese and how their samples are more delicious than their actual product.
Some might call it a repeat…more genius staff assistants would say you’ve gone into syndication.
And, as a generalist, I too applaud the retarded young man at Chic Fil-he has become a master of a specific craft and he needs to be recognized. He has succeeded in specificity in a way I have not…bravo!
Or perhaps that I’m resting on my laurels. The Gallery is a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to material. Today I noticed four uniformed and well armed security agents leaning on a post talking to each other, interested in nothing so much as their own engaging conversation. You could have held someone up at gun point and they might not have noticed. Made me feel a lot safer.
When you find yourself being a bit jealous of a man who’s main job function is passing out chicken on a toothpick you perhaps need to reevaluate your choices. I’m just saying.
Remember that article Nancy sent us about that strangling that happened at 11 a.m. last week in the Gallery? Yeah-made me feel great about unknowingly spending my lunch break there at Five Below on the same day.
Reevaluate my choices I am. Maybe instead of working in an office, I could work in an ice cream shop. I’d really love scooping ice cream all day and handing out cones to people. I mean, you get to give people ICE CREAM all day.
Hey-maybe I’ll see if Ben & Jerry’s is hiring…
J, for the last time:
Yeah I remember. I walk through the Gallery regularly. I know exactly where it happened and exactly where he was found. I see people screaming at each other there all the time.
I was at the library this afternoon over my lunch break. I saw that some janitorial services was hiring. Third shift, cleaning office buildings. For a moment, I considered it. I loved being a janitor. I actually considered applying to my campus department after graduating. I found the work satisfying, I liked the people (and not just the other students, the full time folks who have made custodial services at a small Christian liberal arts college their career) but then my friend Jeannine’s mom said I was nuts and she was right, so I took the path I’m currently on. But there are moments when I’m being figuratively shit on that I think to myself, it would be better to just literally clean up people’s shit because at least then I wouldn’t be fooling anyone about what my job is or my station in life.
Ben & Jerry’s is awesome. They have a policy that the top executives cannot make more than seven times what the people on the lowest rung make. In practice, this means they have a hard time finding executive talent, but it probably also means you can make quite a lot selling ice cream and no one yells at the ice cream man.